Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 348 (and a reprise of Opus 347):
Opus 348 (February 7, 2016). It’s that time of year. Or it was, a month ago. A time for reflecting upon the doin’s of the last twelve months, but, like a pivot, one year’s end is the next year’s beginning—hence, January, named after the two-faced Roman god Janus, who looked both forward and backward. So we’ll spend a few moments this time looking forward (at the caricatures of the future Election Year) as well as looking back at the Most Momentous Moments of 2015. By the time you read this, New Hampshire will, once again, be history, but it hadn’t happened at the time we quit preparing this opus for posting, so you’ll have to wait for that.
In the meantime, you can ponder our reviews of Ted Rall’s Snowden (biography or politics?) and a reconsideration of Cliff Huxtable and Bill Cosby, who is being slowly crucified by the misguided Social Media. We also report on women cartoonists being ignored in Angouleme’s Grand Prix nominations, and while reviewing the history of women in cartooning, we offer two brand new names, resurrected from the 18th and 19th centuries. We report the ending of the comic strip Edge City and the cross-over between Dick Tracy and On the Fastrack (mentioning also the two other daily strips Bill Holbrook does). And we review the Wesley Morse biography (now in hand) and Bazooka Joe and His Gang, answer the question “Who is Ally Sloper” and wonder who the hell David Bowie is and how he could have escaped our notice all this time. Here’s all of what’s here, in order, by department—:
NOUS R US
Farghadani Acquitted of Illegitimate Relations
Graphic Novel Sales Up
Stan the Man Losing Eyesight
Eustace Tilley’s Crude Sex Appeal?
Another Diversity War: Women Cartoonists at Angouleme
Women in Comics: Ally Sloper
Charlie a Year Later
Odds & Addenda
NBM at Forty Gets New Logo
Barbie Gets Make-over
January 7: Cartoonists Day in Scotland
MetLife to Abandon Snoopy?
Reviewing the Year 2015: Top Stories in Editoons
Saudi Arabia and Iran Have Too Many Beheadings
Social Media Misguided on Cosby
Editoonists Explain Caricatures for 2016
EDGE CITY ENDS
Insights and Explanations
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Patsy Walker aka Hellcat—AWFUL
Flaws in New Yorker Cartoons
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
Events in the Funnies
Nifty Cross-over: On the Fastrack & Dick Tracy
Bill Holbrook’s Trio of Daily Strips
The Life and Art of Wesley Morse
Bazooka Joe and His Gang
LONG FORM PAGINATED CARTOON STRIPS
Snowden Graphic Novel
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
If Not of A Lifetime
“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
Farghadani Acquitted on “Illegitimate Relations” Charge
Reported at iranhumanrights.org, January 25, 2016, by Maren Williams
Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani, currently serving a nearly 13-year prison sentence for caricaturing members of parliament as animals, has been spared even more prison time as she was recently acquitted of “non-adultery illegitimate relations.” That charge was brought after she shook the hand of her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi when he visited to discuss her case.
Contact between unrelated members of the opposite sex is technically illegal in Iran, but rarely prosecuted. Moghimi was also charged and acquitted; both parties could have received sentences of up to 99 lashes if convicted.
Amnesty International learned in October that in the course of the “investigation,” Farghadani was subjected to pregnancy and virginity tests against her will. The latter test is carried out by physically checking for the presence of a hymen, and is recognized by the World Health Organization as a form of sexual violence. In addition to the government-sponsored assault, Farghadani also reports that she has been the target of “lewd gestures, sexual slurs and other insults” from prison guards and officials since the “illegitimate relations” charge was introduced in June.
Farghadani’s mother Eshrat Ardestani told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that “my daughter was mentally crushed by this accusation but she’s very happy since she heard about the acquittal.” However, there is still a possibility that prosecutors could appeal the verdict.
Farghadani is also awaiting a verdict on her appeal of the charges that landed her in prison in the first place, including “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system.” Her cartoon mocked Members of Parliament as they debated a bill to ban voluntary sterilization procedures such as vasectomies and tubal ligations in an effort to reverse Iran’s falling birthrate.
But even before her arrest, she was already well-known to the government for her fearless advocacy on behalf of political prisoners, Baha’i minorities, and the families of protesters killed after the country’s presidential election in 2009.
BETTER THAN 2014
Diamond Book Distributors, the book trade unit of Diamond Comics Distributors and one of the largest distributors of graphic novels and pop culture merchandise to bookstores and the school and library market, reports that 2015 was the “second best year” in the history of DBD. Better than the somewhat lack-luster 2014. “And we expect 2016 to be our best year ever” DBD vice president Kuo-Yu Liang told Calvin Reid at publishersweekly.com. The graphic novel market overall is improving: U.S. graphic novel print unit sales rose 22% in 2015 over 2014, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which reports on sales in about 80% the bookstore market.
“Last year was very good. And our sales were not driven by any one title or publisher but by everything, a wide range of titles and genres,” Liang said. Reid reports that among the big sellers for DBD publishers in 2015 were the Saga series, Walking Dead compendiums, March Books One and Two, and kids series such as My Little Pony, Grumpy Cat, and Princeless.
Liang credited the growth to a wide variety of popular titles and a supportive and stable retailing sector in 2015. “We had a year of great books in 2015 and an overall robust retail environment,” he said. He also emphasized the continuing growth of new bookstore customers curious about the buzz around graphic novels.
“Consumer interest in graphic novels keeps rising. That’s been a trend over the last 10 years,” Liang said, noting the impact of demands for diversity. “And there were lots of new customers—including women and minorities—asking about graphic novels in bookstores. The more people talk about graphic novels, the more people want to try one out.”
The diversification of genres beyond the superhero category is also a big factor, Liang added. “There’s a graphic novel for everyone these days, crime, romance, adventure, kids books,” he said. “And graphic novels are now sold in museums, parks, the Smithsonian, and colleges. They’re sold in so many places beyond just bookstores.”
The timing may be a little off—maybe it would have been better to have debuted just as The Donald began trumpeting about Mexican rapists and murderers surging across the border—but
“Bordertown,” the animated prime-time series created by “Family Guy’s” Mark Hentemann and produced by FG’s Seth MacFarlane (with La Cucaracha’s Lalo Alcaraz as a consultant), began in January on Fox. From a review that came over the Internet transom —:
If you thought the political debate over immigration has devolved into a cartoon, “Bordertown” finishes the job. This animated sitcom on Fox is as subtle and amusing as a brick border wall.
In the Southwestern town of Mexifornia, a Border Patrol agent, Bud Buckwald (Hank Azaria of “The Simpsons”), works ineptly to secure the national boundary and his own sense of primacy in his country. His next-door neighbor Ernesto Gonzalez (Nicholas Gonzalez) laughs off Bud’s casual racism, but tensions are about to rise as Mexifornia considers a draconian anti-immigration bill.
As in the political diatribes, “Bordertown” casts both sides in extremes. There are the Hispanic caricatures, like the tot at a barbecue who spikes Bud’s food with a blazing hot chili pepper from a bag marked Extra Caliente. There are the white caricatures, like Bud’s 5-year-old daughter, Gert (Missi Pyle), a pageant contestant who, for some reason, has a pronounced Honey Boo Boo Southern accent. Nearly everyone, white and brown, is drawn in a similar bulbous avocado shape.
Like MacFarlane’s other animated shows, “Bordertown” aspires to the issues-based comedy of Norman Lear. When Becky gets engaged to Ernesto’s liberal nephew, J. C. (Mr. Gonzalez), it feels like a tribute to the Archie-versus-Gloria-and-Meathead sparring of “All in the Family.”
But despite the show’s apt timing, the satire gets swallowed up by the hyperactive joke engine. There are so many cutaway gags that the show feels bored with itself. The social humor is curdled and mean, and the non sequitur jokes — like a visit to “Goofy’s rape room” at a knockoff version of Disneyland — play like “Family Guy” outtakes.
The show’s most distinctive, slapstick running joke imagines the border battle as a Looney Tunes cartoon, where the roadrunner is a coyote: El Coyote, a wily immigrant smuggler who frustrates Bud’s elaborate attempts to capture him. (One involves a giant-spring contraption that might as well have ACME stamped on it.)
It’s pointedly silly stuff, but also a sign of the anarchic comedy “Bordertown” could be if it could escape the shadow of Peter Griffin, the father on “Family Guy.” As it is, the show may appeal to “Family Guy” die-hards, but mostly gives viewers of all persuasions cause to run from the border.
“THE MAN” CAN’T READ COMICS ANYMORE
Stan Lee says he can no longer read comics. Interviewed by radiotimes.com, 93-year-old Lee said: “My eyesight has gotten terrible and I can’t read comic books any more. The print is too small. Not only a comic book, but I can’t read the newspaper or a novel or anything. I miss reading 100 per cent. It’s my biggest miss in the world.”
Lee has come a long way from the man who was once ashamed of his medium. “When I was young, I was embarrassed to tell people that I wrote comic books,” he admits. “I even changed my name because people hated them so much. My name used to be Stanley Martin Lieber. I was saving it for the great American novel, which I never wrote.”
Still, he is clearly immensely proud of his legacy, and his sight difficulties haven’t stopped him from continuing to produce and create adventure stories.
ZUNAR STATES HIS CASE
The persecuted Malaysian cartoonist Sukhbir Cheema, aka Zunar, made his case in an opinion piece published online by the Washington Post January 1; in print on January 3. Excerpts—:
I’m a cartoonist in a country where cartooning can be a crime. Under my pen name, Zunar, I expose corruption and abuses of power by the Malaysian government. As it happens, I have a good deal of material to work with. For instance, Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently facing questions about a $700 million “donation” made to his personal bank account.
Last February, police raided my home in the middle of the night and hauled me off to jail. I was handcuffed for eight hours and thrown into a cell with all the other criminal suspects. I managed to avoid telling my cellmates what I was in for: using Twitter.
I was accused of sedition over a series of tweets I sent out opposing the jailing of a prominent Malaysian opposition leader. Now I’m facing nine charges under my country’s archaic, colonial-era Sedition Act, which could result in a 43-year prison sentence . The court proceedings against me begin this month. ...
The legal assault against me is nothing new, but it marks a major escalation. The authorities have repeatedly sought to silence me. My office has been raided multiple times since 2009, and authorities have confiscated thousands of my cartoon books. In 2010, five of my books — including “1 Funny Malaysia” — were banned by the home affairs minister, who declared the contents “detrimental to public order.” Later that year I was detained by police and locked up for two days after the publication of “Cartoon-O-Phobia.” To say the least, the Malaysian government has no sense of humor.
In late 2014, my webmaster was called in for questioning, and three of my assistants were arrested for selling my books. I was also brought in for questioning by the police, and the company that processes orders for my website was forced to disclose my customer list. In January, the police raided my office and then opened two investigations in February under the Sedition Act. That’s when they really threw the book at me.
The government hasn’t just targeted me and my associates; it also has cracked down on the entire ecosystem of free expression. Three companies that printed my books were raided and warned not to print my books in the future or their licenses would be revoked. Likewise, bookstores that carried my book were raided and their licenses were threatened. As a result, no one dares print or sell my books.
In such an environment, people like me must turn to the Internet to share our opinions and art. But now that space is under attack as well.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey recently proclaimed that the platform is a bastion of “freedom of expression” and speaking “truth to power.” With my personal slogan of “How Can I Be Neutral, Even My Pen Has a Stand,” I embrace his vision. The reality, though, is quite different.
If a person can face sedition charges for stating a belief in 140 characters or less, then there is no freedom of expression. The Malaysian Sedition Act is incredibly broad, banning any act, speech or publication purported to bring contempt against the government or royal sultans. In 2012, Najib pledged to repeal the act because, he said, it “represents a bygone era.” He’s since reversed course and moved to strengthen it.
I’ve been charged with one count of sedition for each supposedly seditious tweet. I could successfully fight one, or maybe two, counts, but nine counts and a potential 43-year prison sentence make clear that the government wants to make an example of me. I need help from people around the world who share my commitment to freedom of expression.
Amnesty International is highlighting my case as part of its Write for Rights campaign, the largest human rights effort on the planet. You can personally write to Prime Minister Najib and call on his government to drop the charges against me and to abolish laws like the Sedition Act that squelch freedom of expression. Public pressure from around the globe can make a big difference in my case and beyond. I hope you’ll join with me to take a stand.
RCH: Zunar stays away from Malaysia these days: he spends most of his time traveling in Europe and the U.S., promoting free expression.
EUSTACE TILLEY’S CRUDE SEX APPEAL
The anniversary issue of The New Yorker has always carried as its cover the image of Eustace Tilley, who, drawn by the magazine’s founding art director, Rea Irvin, appeared on the cover of the first issue, February 21, 1925. The image was repeated every year thereafter—probably, as one-time cartoon editor Lee Lorenz once told me, because no one could think of any appropriately celebratory alternative image. (For the Whole History of Eustace Tilley, see Harv’s Hindsight for March 2015.) And then along came the editorial reign of Tina Brown, who, we suppose, set about deliberately to alter the magazine’s reality, and, with the 1994's anniversary issue, offered a variation—namely, Robert Crumb’s portrait of a modern-day boulevardier, a slacker and layabout with his baseball cap on backwards.
Since then, the Irvin image of Tilley has appeared occasionally, and alternative images have also appeared. This year, we have another entry in the latter category from Liniers, an Argentine cartoonist, whose cover is entitled “Eustace Spreads Out.” Said Liniers: “I was concerned that the riff may have run its course, but then I realized that the scourge of ‘manspreading’ is as impactful as ever.”
The “riff”? The scourge of ‘manspreading’”?
Never heard of it? Probably that means you are not a resident of New York or of any other large city with its own public underground transportation system. I’d never heard of manspreading, but apparently it runs rampant, particularly noted and objected to by women. ... To Understand Their Objection, We Need the Illustration That Accompanies the Rest of this Article; for That, and for the Discussion of Women Cartoonists Missing at Angouleme, Ally Sloper (Who?), Editooning Last Year’s Major Events, Caricaturing the Presidential Candidates, Cosby and Huxtable, a New Comic Strip Cross-over, Wesley Morse’s Chorus Girls, Ted Rall and Edward Snowden—and More, Lots More—Click Here And If You're Not a $ubscriber/associate—
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